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Natchez board has plans for old train depot back in business next October
from Staff Reports - NEWS
November 14, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. – City officials have plans for completing the long-stalled renovation of Natchez’ old Broadway Street railroad depot and bring it back to life by this time next year.

Requests for proposals will be sought from private developers who want to refurbish the city-owned building for dining like it was for much of the past 40 years.

Mayor Darryl Grennell and the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday reviewed plans for the now-empty depot to become a “café-style venue” offering outdoor dining for patrons to enjoy the bluff’s view overlooking the Mississippi River. The mayor and aldermen are finalizing the plans and terms for what bidders should go by when submitting proposals for the depot’s full restoration and use.

A timetable presented Tuesday has a developer selected in March and the depot being fully renovated and open for business by October. The 108-year-old depot’s rebirth is considered by city officials as the key to transforming the Natchez Bluff area into a new “entertainment district” that runs the length of Broadway Street.

The former train station was vacated in 2013 when a restaurant and shop were evicted so the building could be renovated. About $900,000 was spent in city and federal funds to restore the exterior in 2016, but the building has since remained an unfinished shell. The board two years ago halted hotelier Warren Reuther’s restoration of the building’s interior amid protests city officials didn’t seek proposals from others also wanting to lease it.

The train station was built in 1910 by the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad and later owned by Illinois Central Railroad. Passenger-rail service to Natchez terminated in the 1940s when World War II ended. The building became a restaurant in the mid-1970s and also later housed a tourist souvenir shop.

The board voted in February to publicly seek proposals from developers on what they could do to revive the depot, but aldermen have stalled making the formal request for proposals. They awaited plans conceived by FOR Natchez, a group led by Chesney Doyle for revitalizing downtown Natchez.

The board and mayor on Tuesday got updated on FOR Natchez’ master plan that was adopted by the city officials in May.

The plan also includes a proposition for the U.S. Post Office on Canal Street being relocated to Martin Luther King Street between Main and Franklin streets. The old mail facility is considered an impediment to the bluff area’s regeneration. One suggestion has it being torn down and replaced by “Ellicott’s Hill Plaza and Farmers Market” in front of the historic house built there in 1798. Relocating the post office to MLK Street could also help spawn economic growth for that section of town.

The Board of Aldermen voted last summer to ask the U.S. Postal Service to consider moving the Natchez post office – a process that would likely take several years. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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